Chapter 7- I’m a Keeper?
Emily asked, “So, did it turn out to be a test?”
“Um, some of it was and some of it wasn’t”
“A test for, what?”
“They needed to know if I really was a Keeper.”
“A Keeper, what do you mean a Keeper.”
“That’s what you and I are Emily, Keepers, the descendants of the original people that came to this planet to watch over the animals and beasts they brought with them.”
Emily’s eyes lit up, “I’m a Keeper? How do you know? I haven’t had any tests!”
She thought about it for a second. “Is that why I have to go to Arcadia? To be tested?”
“Tested and taught. We’re already pretty sure you’re a Keeper.”
“Oh yeah, how can you be so sure?”
“Just from watching you and seeing the way you go about doing things. Plus, Heron told me.”
“Heron told you. So, I was right about being able to connect with him.”
“Yep, he knew the moment he first met you.”
Emily seemed to be lost in thought, she finally asked, “Did you ever meet him again?
“Yes, I did actually, we work together every now and then.”
“Work, don’t you mean worked?”
“Nope, once a Keeper always a Keeper.
Emily got up and walked to the railing and looked out at the trees. She turned to her and said, “It’s so cool, my grandmothers a Keeper!” After a second, she asked, “What will Arcadia be like for me?”
Nee Nee went to the railing. “The most wonderful experience you could ever have and also, the scariest. You’ll do things you never thought you could, meet people you never dreamed of meeting and go places you’ve never heard of. But you’ll be put in situations that could get you seriously hurt and others that will leave a lasting impression on your heart.”
“So, pretty boring, huh?”
Nee Nee laughed out loud. “Yes, terribly boring!”
They both turned to look out over the back yard and sat in silence for a while listening to the sounds of nature. A rumble of distant thunder echoed in the trees.
“Nee Nee, I’m scared.”
“I know Lee Lee, but you need to go. Others are counting on you.”
“But I worry about you! Are you going to be okay?”
She laughed gently and stroked Emily’s hair. “You are such a sweet girl. I’ll be fine, you don’t have to worry about me. And who knows, maybe we’ll run into each other – out there.” She nodded towards the yard.
The thunder rumbled, closer this time.
Nee Nee looked at her and said, “You better get going if you’re going to beat the rain.”
“I suppose.” She looked up at her grandmother then suddenly threw her arms around her.
Surprised for a second, Nee Nee hugged Emily back. “What’s this for, Sweetheart?”
Emily released her grandmother and took a step back. She wiped tears away from eyes with the back of her hand. “I don’t know.” She smiled up at her. “I guess it’s a thank you for all you’ve done for me. Plus, I’m going to really miss you.”
Nee Nee rubbed the side of her head and replied, “Oh Honey, don’t think of this as an ending, this is the start of something fantastic for you. I’ll be right here waiting to hear about all your adventures.”
Just then the wind blew, exposing the underside of the leaves on the trees. “You better get a move on.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” answered Emily. She walked a little way down the porch towards the steps then turned to wave goodbye. “Bye Nee Nee.”
“See you soon Love.”
Emily spun around and ran to the steps then jumped down without touching any of them.
Chapter 8- Three Sisters
Emily stopped her bike at the stop sign and looked both ways before turning left. There was never anybody coming but it was something she did out of habit anyway. She rode about a hundred yards up the road and turned into the stone driveway. She rode up to the small tool shed and put her bike away. The thunder was rumbling closer now and she could smell the rain in the air, it wouldn’t be long before it started. She walked up the slate path to the front door but stopped before going in. She took a couple steps back to admire the building.
Her parents and their engineering students from the local community college designed had built it. Its design is based on a Native American tradition of planting, called The Three Sisters. The method makes use of corn stalks planted in the center with pole beans and squash planted around it. The pole beans climb the stalk, using it as a support. The squash leaves cover the soil around the corn and bean plants, keeping the soil moist and preventing weeds from growing.
The house uses blocks, molded from mushroom juice and corn husks, placed around a curved support structure made from 3D printed organic material that hardens when exposed to sunlight. That structure becomes the support for a genetically altered native vine which takes the place of the pole beans. The vine tendrils are very strong, so as it grows up and around it helps to bind the mushroom blocks and support structure together. Squash, just like what’s used in the Three Sisters except leaves are treated with Nano particles, are planted around the base. The squash uses the pole beans as support as it makes its way up the building. The Nano particles allow the current generated by the natural photosynthesis process to flow through the stems and into storage centers placed throughout the structure. The leaves become the electrical system for the structure producing enough power for the entire building. The current can also travel through the plant’s root systems to the roots of other similar structures nearby, allowing the excess current from one building to be sent to any of the others when needed. Excess electricity can also be stored in batteries for use on cloudy days. Heating and cooling occur much the same way a termite mound works. Openings in strategic places allow for the flow of air, bringing in cool air in the summer and distributing warm air in the winter. Each building blends so well into its surroundings that, from a short distance, you might not even know they were there.
Emily walked through the door, took her shoes off and headed for the kitchen. Her parents were waiting for her at the table.
“Hey,” she said as she passed them on the way to the refrigerator for a drink of water. She could hear through the open window by the sink that she had just barely beaten the rain home. Large drops splattered off the squash leaves.
Her parents first looked at each other, then turned to look at her. Her mom asked, “You were at Nee Nee’s, right?”
She put the container of water on the counter and got a glass from the cabinet. “Yep.”
They both said, “Well?”
She slowly filled the glass, put the container back, then went back to the glass and drank the water without pausing. She let out a loud burb then said, “Excuse me!”
Her mom said, “Manners, please.”
Her father replied, slightly annoyed, “Did you speak to your grandmother?”
“Oh, yes, yes I did.”
“What did you talk about then?”
Emily went over to the table, pulled out a chair, sat down and folded her hands. “I don’t know, the usual.”
“Yeah, you know, gardening stuff, the weather, Native American traditions and how the younger generation doesn’t appreciate elders the way they should. Normal stuff.”
Her mom and dad looked at each other again. Her dad turned to her and asked, “Nothing else?”
“Nope. Why, was there something she was supposed to tell me?”
“Well, yes. We were hoping she would talk to you about something important. She said she would.”
She tilted her head toward the ceiling and put her finger to her chin and tapped it. “Hmm, let me think…something important…ohhh, yeah, there was something else.”
Her mom perked up, “What was it?”
“She mentioned something about me being a Keeper, the same as her, and that I needed to go to Florida to be with Uncle Dave so I could learn all sorts of things about saving animals and stuff.” She looked at them and broke into a big grin.
Her dad slapped his hand on the table. You stinker! She told you we were going to be here waiting to find out what she said, didn’t she?”
She laughed and said, “Yep, she did.”
Her mom asked, “So, what do you think? Do you want to go? Or do you want to stay? Either way is fine with us. We want what you want. I don’t think you’ll be gone for a long time. You could come back any time you want.”
“Easy mom, you’re going to blow a gasket. I want to go, I think. I’m both scared and excited at the same time.”
Emily could see tears in her mom’s eyes. She took hold of Emily’s hand and said, “We’re so proud of you.”
“I haven’t done anything yet, Mom.”
“I mean we’re so proud of who’ve grown up to be, the things you believe in and how you go about doing them. That’s what we’re proud of.”
Emily slumped in her seat a little and said, “What if I screw up down there? Will you still feel the same way about me?”
Her dad said, “Of course we will, Jellybean. We’ll always feel that way, no matter what. You need to not worry about that sort of stuff and just go there to learn what you can and have a good time. Hopefully, it will be a great experience.”
She looked at them, “What do you think about me being a Keeper? Is that alright?”
Her mom grabbed her hand and said, “Alright? It’s better than alright, it’s fantastic!”
“It doesn’t make me a freak, or anything, does it?”
“Do you think Nee Nee is a freak?”
“Of course not!”
“Well then, neither are you. You have a gift, something hardly anyone else on this planet has. You should feel lucky, not embarrassed.”
“What about at the school? Do you think the other kids will be like me? I mean, not the talking to animals’ thing, but, scared and nervous.”
Her dad took her other hand, “Honey, every year your mom and me see new students come into our classes. They feel the same way, nervous, unsure of themselves, worried about saying the wrong thing’ It’s only natural. But after four years, they leave more confident and surer of who they are and what they want to do with their lives. I’m sure it’s going to be the same way with you. You need to give it a chance but, remember, it won’t happen overnight either.”
“Yeah, I guess. I can’t believe I have to leave at the end of the week, though.”
Her parents both popped out of their seats and exclaimed in unison, “What? The end of the week? No way!”